Tragedy and Hope
of the likes we have grown used to on television news shows,
or in popular film narratives, hit our region just as we were
putting our last edition of this paper together a couple of
weeks ago. By now, we all know the basics of what happened.
A 23-year old from way Upstate in one of New York’s more
remote stretches stole a van and some guns, then ended up getting
pulled over by a state trooper at a convenience store in Margaretville.
A minor traffic incident turned ballistic when the young man,
Travis Trim, fired a handgun into the chest of the approaching
officer and ran for it, eventually ditching his vehicle and
making off into the local woods. All that day, the talk had
been about how killers of cops should be given the death penalty.
Not knowing that the trooper he’d shot had been protected
by body armor, Trim proceeded to act as if he’d entered
a black and white, life or death world where he no longer had
any options but the most dramatic.
It turns out that a nine-hour standoff with the shooter that
ended with one of the region’s more expensive second homes
going up in flames was entirely avertable. Trim had been shot
and killed during a morning shootout where a trooper was killed
by “friendly fire.” It also turns out that, when
the perpetrator’s back story started coming to light,
he was a just a normal kid who’d run into trouble with
the law in what should have been minor ways. He had a DUI, was
put on probation. Got busted buying beer for minors… which
could have meant anyone a year or two younger than he was. He
got busted for having pot.
Trim’s friends and family said that he felt he was bad,
that some of his acquaintances had told him he was headed downhill
into a life of crime. They also say he played a lot of video
games, the kind where one’s trapped in some situation
having to shoot one’s way out.
Locally, the incident involved a heavy police presence while
it was all transpiring. Troopers pulled over cars on state highways,
shotguns in hand, within a fifty mile radius of Margaretville.
People were warned by the local media to keep their hands on
the wheel lest they provoke an attack from an emotionally charged
police force. It got scary… could this one kid’s
flip-out create a chain reaction of further tragedies? Luckily,
it didn’t… beyond the friendly fire death and second
home’s burning from an errant tear gas shell.
Was there an overreaction? Are we all on tenderhooks, as a nation,
about to slip into violence at any moment if one of our protectors,
be they military or police, gets attacked? Has the world become
as black and white, as life and death, as good versus evil as
Trim seems to have believed, as so many around us keep repeating?
I know this may seem like a stretch to many, but I think the
answer is somehow tied up with the importance of next week’s
school district vote on a new budget, and two of three candidates
for school board. Why? Because education – beyond learning
how to cope with video game dilemmas and policing “situations
– teaches us how to cope with a world in more than this
or that, us versus them dialectical terms. It teaches us to
weigh options, to grow the patience we all need to move forward
in life, to call enough enough, to not allow us into the tragic
choices we saw unfold last week.
In other words, well-funded education allows students the tools
to become engaged… be it in the digital world beyond games,
the endless combination of creativity and discipline offered
up via the arts, mathematics, and pure science; as well as the
knowledge imparted by history and all the disciplines. It rounds
us out. It gives us opportunity.
To bicker about the cost of such processes seems small-minded
to us. And hurtful, in the long-run, to young men and women
already scared about the world they are trying to enter responsibly.
Why say no to them via school budgets already whittled down
as best they can be via a public process?
Vote yes on this year’s budget. And the proposition for
new school buses. They are thoughtful requests for public help.
As for whom to vote for? We think the board president, Marino
D’Orazio, has experience, thoughtfulness, and forthrightness
and should be re-elected, even if his manners can sometimes
be blunt and his choices have not been everyone’s. We
feel he has been a good influence on the board and furthermore,
repeat our unpopular belief from last year’s election
that the wider representation of different communities on the
school board, the better things will be for the school district.
After all, Onteora is diverse, so its board should be too. Voting
for these positions based on non-school issues seems out-of-place.
As for the better of the two challengers… we leave that
to you to decide. It is good to see strong candidates come forward,
defeating the apathy that has sunk so many school districts
around our country. And as evidenced by the way our recent Interim
Superintendent, Jack Jordan, came to attention via a non-winning
shot for this same position, we stand by our belief that there
are no losers when it comes to such matters.
Unless we vote against the idea of education. Then we invite